CBN, NCC Move To Save Etisalat Over Debt

 

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, have intervened in the multi-billion naira debt crisis rocking one of Nigeria’s biggest telecommunications companies, Etisalat.

Spokesman of the NCC, Tony Ojobo in a statement said that the Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, Umar Danbatta, and the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, met on Thursday at the CBN headquarters in Abuja over the debt issue.

Recall that a consortium of financial agencies including three Nigerian Banks have been spoiling to take over Etisalat due to debts running into hundreds of billions of Naira owed them by the telecoms giant.

The Nigerian banks include: Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank and Zenith Bank.

Ojobo stated: “The meeting which was held at the CBN in Abuja was convened by the financial regulator at the instance of NCC and the telecom regulator to further deliberate on how best to stop the attempt by the banks to take over Etisalat.

“At the end of the meeting, the CBN agreed to invite Etisalat management and the banks to a meeting tomorrow, Friday, toward finding an amicable resolution.”

The NCC spokesman stated that the intervention was because of the commission’s conviction that if the takeover was not prevented, it would have serious negative impact on the industry.

According to Ojobo, the NCC was worried about the fate of the over 20 million Etisalat subscribers and the wrong signals the takeover might send to would-be investors in the telecom industry.

Earlier, the Head of Public Relations at Etisalat, Oluseyi Osuntedo, had told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, that the reported take-over of the company was false, adding that “discussions are going on; nobody is taking over the company.”

“It is not true that we are being picketed, whoever gave the information is not telling the truth,” she said.

A consortium of some foreign and Nigerian banks saying Etisalat Nigeria owes them a total of $1.72 billion which is about N541.8 billion obtained in 2015.

The banks said their attempt to recover the loan by all means was as a result of pressure from the Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON, which demanded that they cut down on the rate of their non-performing loans.

Etisalat is Nigeria’s fourth largest telecoms operator with about 21 million subscribers as at January 2017.